Restaurant Review: Make it your mission to try Mission BBQ

Six ounces of pulled pork go on a Mission BBQ sandwich with fries and house-made macaroni and cheese.
photo A pulled-chicken plate includes 8 ounces of meat. Sides of potato salad and green beans and a complimentary piece of cornbread round out the meal.

If you go

› Where: Mission BBQ, 1926 Gunbarrel Road› Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday› Prices: $1.89 sides to $18.99 for 10-bone rack of ribs› Phone: 423-933-3098

When was the last time you were in a restaurant and the staff asked everyone to please rise for the national anthem? All activity stopped. Management and servers all lined up at the counter, hands over their hearts. Diners stood and joined in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," then clapped and cheered at its completion.

Yes, it was a first for me, too. But it's an everyday occurrence at noon in Mission BBQ, where patriotism and supporting our country's troops are just as important as serving up a great plate of barbecue. And, after two visits, I have to say they are doing an admirable job at both.

THE SPACE

Mission BBQ is one of three new eateries just opened in a new Gunbarrel Road center across from Chili's and Starbucks. If the thought of turning across Gunbarrel Road's heavy traffic makes you want to break out in hives, don't worry. Access the center by an asphalt drive that turns off Goodwin Road beside Hamilton Skate Place. It circles behind the shopping center to the front parking lot and you'll avoid that traffic.

This fast-casual restaurant's decor is a mashup of modern industrial and rustic. Warehouse-style metal pendant lights and exposed track lighting hang from the open ceiling above a concrete floor. Faux-wood high-top tables, booths and picnic tables fill the dining area.

A large American flag is suspended from the ceiling. Photos of military, police and more first responders line the walls, and embroidered patches of these same types of units decorate door frames and walls.

Mission BBQ was founded on Sept. 11, 2011, and its founders chose that day to remind visitors what makes this country great: its heroes. Their slogan mirrors this: "Proudly Serving Those Who Serve."

Mission BBQ donates to nonprofits that support these heroes such as the USO, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, Navy SEAL Foundation, Wreaths Across America, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Honor Flight Network and many more.

THE MENU

As soon as you walk through the doors, the mouthwatering aroma of smoked meat hits you. Every item on Mission's menu is house-made. Mission smokes its pork for 12 hours, its brisket for 14 hours and chicken for 90 minutes. Sides are made every morning, according to our waitress, who told us the mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses in the macaroni and cheese are even grated by hand.

Choose from sandwiches, plates, salads, five sides, sweets, ribs and racks of chicken or salmon. Ribs are sold by the bone, five bones or 10 bones. There are three kiddie menu choices. Carry-out orders, called pickup packs, can be purchased for parties of five or more.

THE ORDER

Everything is a la carte; there are no dinner-and-two-sides choices. But a pulled-pork sandwich, sides of mac and cheese and baked beans on my first trip only ran $10.92 plus tax.

I visited with my younger son and his family on the second time. He has serious skills on the grill, and I wanted his input on the meat. Mission's pork is moist and has rich flavor from 12 hours in the smoker and, as he pointed out, a smoke ring a good three-quarter-inches deep. My pulled chicken was fork-tender and had wonderful flavor.

The mac and cheese with its crusty baked-cheese top will remind you of grandmother's dish for Sunday dinners. The green beans are cooked with bacon, and each bite ends with a slight bit of heat from minced red peppers. Everything we tried was good. However, a word of caution: The fries are heavily salted, and anyone on a low-sodium diet should know that in advance.

THE SERVICE

Place your order and pay at the counter when your enter. Your name will be called when the order is up. After we were seated, friendly staff members stopped by several times to make sure the food was acceptable or to see if we needed anything.

THE VERDICT

There are a lot of barbecue joints in Chattanooga, but Mission BBQ has managed to carve a niche for itself - both with great food and unabashed patriotism - that separates it from the pack. It's good food at family-friendly rates. Make it your mission to try Mission BBQ.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-747-6284.